While non-EU international student applications leaped to a record 85,610, those from within the EU have decreased to 26,010, marking a decline of 40%.
“The UK government and universities must continue to demonstrate how much they value European students”
Applications from China and India have increased to 25,810 (+21%) and 7,820 (+25%) respectively, while US applications have seen the “largest proportional increase of any major nation”, up 61% to 6,670.
UCAS said that the drop from within the European Union was down to the “short-term effects and uncertainty at the end of the last calendar year surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, and changes to student support arrangements”.
Applications from Ireland have also increased by 26% to 4,850.
“It is very encouraging to see more people of all ages and backgrounds choosing to study at UK universities, recognising the broad range of benefits that a university degree will bring them throughout their lives,” said Universities UK chief executive Alistair Jarvis.
“The growth in non-EU applicants from a wide range of countries also shows the UK remains a fantastic global destination for prospective students, with the introduction of a two-year post-study work visa beginning to pay dividends,” policy analyst at the Russell Group Cat Turhan added.
However, the fall in demand from EU applicants is a “source of concern”, UUK’s Jarvis continued.
“The UK government and universities must continue to demonstrate how much they value European students by working together to promote the UK as a high quality destination for study and by offering new forms of financial support,” he said.
In Scotland, EU applications dropped 40% to 6,900, which Universities Scotland described as “not as dramatic as expected” as it is the first cohort of EU students not entitled to free tuition.
“Application data at this point in the cycle gives an indication about the demand for higher education, and it looks assuring for Scottish universities. Students clearly see a value at studying in Scotland from across the world all the way to our most deprived areas,” Alastair Sim, director of Universities Scotland said.
Applications to Scottish institutions from outside the EU have increased 27% to 6,100, Universities Scotland highlighted.
“We are taking nothing for granted as applications don’t necessarily transfer into acceptances especially when there is a great deal of volatility regarding students and the pandemic,” Sim continued.
“The drop in EU student numbers is not as dramatic as many feared although we don’t know how this will impact individual universities and courses. This makes the need for scholarships for EU students from the Scottish government even more vital.”
Applications for undergraduate courses can continue to be made until the end of June, provided universities and colleges have indicated there are places available. Additionally, applicants can apply direct to clearing over the course of the summer.
Vice president of Global Communications at international student platform Studee.com Laura Rettie said the increase in international student applications was “really positive”.
“It’s great that despite incredibly challenging circumstances, the pandemic isn’t putting off students from studying abroad,” she said, emphasising the “wealth of knowledge and diversity” international students bring to the UK.
“It’s no surprise the number of EU students has dropped due to the uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit,” Rettie added.
“It’s a drastic loss that’s likely to be felt by certain universities more than others. It’s vital the UK government works hard to ensure European students feel welcome in the UK and I’d like to see them offer new forms of financial support to gain their trust back.”